We hear about empty nest, that phase of life when the kids are grown, the career has topped out below where we thought it would, and the house isn’t nearly as paid off as we’d hoped. By our mid-forties, we can be dealing with a lot of disappointment, and unmet expectations.
Turns out, we might also be dealing with more loneliness between the age of 45-65 than at any other time in life. Think about that. Think about how horrendously isolated we felt in middle school, how hard the first freshman term was, how tough moving to a new city was… and that stretch between 45-65 can be even harder.
The reasons include a spike in divorces when marriages hit 17 years, a lousy economy that keeps us working more and socializing less, smaller families, a job market that means we move frequently to remain employed or climb the career ladder, among other factors. Our peers start to die on us as we’re pushing fifty, and our energy for anything–much less being social–can start to decline.
But letting friendships lapse is not smart, according some of the science on the subject. Loneliness can be as bad for our physical and mental health as smoking fifteen cigarettes a day, carrying significant extra weight, or drinking too much. Lonely people are more likely to die early, suffer a heart attack or stroke, or suffer compromised immunity than are people who have friends.
We’ve long known that having a support network is critical in recovery from many major illnesses, and that the stereotype of the entirely self-reliant rugged individual is a set-up for all kinds of misery if taken to extremes. Lonely people are prey to feelings of anxiety and hostility, and social withdrawal can become a downward spiral.
All very daunting… and for most of us, avoidable. Meeting a writin’ buddy or a reader for a cup of tea might be just as important for my wellbeing as getting on that old tread desk, and it’s a lot more fun. Dropping an email to my sister takes five minutes, and probably does me as much good as some of those supplements I buy. Taking yard flowers to the neighbor costs me nothing, but gives us both a smile.
I’m not naturally social, but when I read these studies, and consider that I might live to be 100, the importance of creating and maintaining friendships become obvious.
Who is your best friend? Are there good friends you haven’t heard from in a while? Have your friends ever come through for you in a way that surprised you? To one commenter, I’ll send a signed copy of Gareth: Lord of Rakes (seen here sporting his new print cover). His lordship desperately needed a few good friends…. and it only took him 400 pages to find them.
Boy, this blog hit home!
Friendship is very important!
I have been emailing with my oldest friend — my sister about children, house repairs and flowers this week. We don’t see each other as she lives in Virginia and I live in Massachusetts but we keep in touch through text and email. We commiserated about our gardens, house repairs and retirement this week.
And after chatting, we realized that we wont be retiring anytime soon!
My sister has been there for me on several occasions and vice versa.
Sometimes, it’s nice to know that she’s there to listen, commiserate or laugh with!
I have lots of *friends* but they’re more like good acquaintances in the same *boat* of life. I have few good, true friends.
I lost a longtime childhood friend (probably my best friend)during the last part of my mother’s illness and subsequent death because she felt she could butt her nose into our family’s decisions. My mother loved her and even considered her her *seventh* child(there are six siblings and my former BFF is my father’s first cousin) but she really screwed up. I lost my best friend as well as my mother almost at the same time.
What has been a delightful surprise has been re-connecting with my best friend from high school. We connected via Facebook (I hate FB but love it for this reason!)and go out to lunch several times a year. Her Mom died almost a year to the day after mine did and I gave her my year’s worth of experience…both of us loved the other one’s Mom and it was healing to be with each other. We had lunch on my significant birthday and cried and laughed and ate…boy, did we eat (no calories when you eat with your best friend remember!). We didn’t have to explain who is who, attended each others weddings (I sang at her wedding). It’s wonderful to be with someone who knew you when you had braces! Her significant birthday is in June…..and I know just what we’ll be doing!
P.S. Love the look of the new website……love the tulips!
I didn’t know that about year 17 of a marriage. That’s the year Eric and I are on now.
I really don’t have any friends nearby that I socialize with. My mom is the person I do the most with and even that has not been as much as it used to be. There are women at church I consider friends and can talk to on the rare occasion but I pretty much only see them on Sundays. We used to have a moms’ group about 4 years ago and we made a point to go out together once a month. That was always fun. After a year or so a few of us got jobs and a few more moved away.
In 14 years of motherhood I have had four really close friends that I would get together with on a weekly basis with and without kids. All four of them eventually moved out of state and it’s been about 4 years since I have had a friend like that.
Now I have my romance book community friends but most of those friendships happen online with an occasional face to face meeting at conferences, teas and such. Of course we always have a lot fun when we are together and it’s like time hasn’t passed.
As for friends coming through in a big way, that happened to me last Monday when one of my old Moms’ group friends created a gofundme page to help my family out with some pretty big medical expenses. Four years ago she was a single mom of two little guys, going through a nasty divorce and out of work. On the day that our state tax return was deposited into our checking account Eric and I both had the same idea of giving that money to her, so we did. We gave her our $900 state tax return not knowing that her rent was overdue and that the rent was $850 dollars. With the extra $50 she was able to get some groceries for herself and her two young boys. It’s not something I have really thought of over the years, but she has. She is now married again and in a good place. I was so overwhelmed that she would do something like that for us.
someone from school
In the truest and bluest sense of the word my best friends are my two sisters – one of which I have been fortunate enough to live close to most of my life.
But I did fall away from a lot of friends during the years you mention – especially the last five years I was working. My health issues were starting about that time too. I think I used up so much energy during the work day that I just didn’t have anything left at the end of the day. One of the first things I did when I retired was to re-connect with a lot of friends and relatives I hadn’t seen for a while.
I love Gareth’s new cover. I’ll be honest and tell you I was VERY nervous when you said you were going to give the Lonely Lords new covers, Grace. (Please tell me the Lords are still going to be the same attractive Lords on the covers!)
Now to answer your questions: I know it sounds like a cliche but my husband is my best friend. When he has to travel for business, I miss him. Not just for the work he does around the house-which he does a great deal of – including cooking – and not just for his ‘work’ as a teddy bear at night: I miss him being here for conversation… So I am lonely without him.
I have other friends, some of whom I rarely see. Many are in another state, but we can easily keep in touch thanks to the internet. Facebook is wonderful for keeping track of real life friends – I actually reconnected with a cousin today via FB. As my cousin said: “Living life gets in the way sometimes”. We do get too busy to get together with friends and extended family. Most days after work at a retail job where I am constantly working with people, my introverted self just wants to go home and be alone with my husband and animals. I’ll have to work at making time to spend with other friends.
My best friend and I met in Fall of 1982. Our friendship was cemented by being in a class about Jane Austen in Spring of 1983. We live in different states, we see each other about once a year. We don’t talk every day, but when we do, they are no awkward spaces. She is beautiful, brilliant, and doesn’t suffer fools well. I am truly blessed.
I talk to my friends Michele and Don every day online (Michele is in Chicago, Don is in North Carolina). Michele has been on vacation and Don has been overwhelmed with work this past week… and I’ve been incredibly grumpy. Took me 3 days to figure out why…
I have other good friends I talk to less frequently, and see a couple of times a year, but Michele and Don are my every day gotos. (Don’t need the book, I already have it. I think I have all of your books at this point… I need a list 🙂
I have found that volunteering has helped get me out of feeling lonely. At the same time I am helping others.
A couple of my best friends helped me identify a frenemy, mostly by giving me good examples of how friends prioritize, keep in touch, how they use words to be clearly supportive and kind. Am still learning how to be in healthy relationship with people I care about, and these friends are teaching me.
My friends truly saved my life and the life of my other half in horrific times over the last year, which included emergency surgeries, career switch (after 17 years, ah, 17, the magic number!), and new career loss! They brought me dinner, lunch, trips, free lance gigs, and — yes, a new career, even. Keep your friends. They are your salvation. And remember to give it forward.